You've got to hand it to my great grandmother--"underwear" is a great opening topic for a long family letter. The "Duke of Lancaster" thing is a problem, though. You've got google, you can quickly find that the "Duke of Lancaster" in the 1920s is King George V, so either Leila got the duke wrong or the ambitious and energetic Mrs. Holyoak was having some fun with her Iowan house-guest. Anyone who gasped at the lawyer going to Nice on estate business will get a kick out of the family story I've heard that most of Aunt Katie's loot went to her chauffeur and Leila's idea that Miss Polsen's nephew was making bank off the household goods.
typed copy on letterhead "2708 Central Avenue, Middletown, Ohio" penciled date June 1928 or 1929 in K. P. Thomas's hand
"The Cottage" Ridgeway - RothleyLeicester, Phone #2718
My dear Mary, Laura, Kirk, Hazel & Alvah,-
We arrived in Southhampton June 13, according to schedule - after a smooth but cold voyage, and every day I appreciated your suggestions, Mary, for comfort. It was so cold on the Lake that I purchased in Quebec a long sleeved, long-legged suit of wool underwear and Dr some wool socks to wear on the voyage, and since our arrival here have worn the short sleeved and legged wool underwear, so all my fine silk underwear has been taboo.
It has rained almost every day and the day we drove to Oxford rained so hard we saw but half what we had planned. Indeed, all our plans here have seemed to be changed, and we feel it hard to know just where we will go or at what time, so I hope Mary is not planning to meet us here at any special place at any special time. We seem to have no idea how long any business will take. So far - we came to Leicester on the 14th, spending 3 days at hotel, trying to get rested a bit, and get a line on things in general. Then Louis' old friends, the Holyokes, invited us here for the week, Mr Edw. H is trustee for Katie's estate, and it has been very convenient to be here where we could talk matters over at our leisure, instead of having it all to do at his office. We had expected to spend several days going over Katie's trunks and boxes which were sent from Nice, but Gerald Holyoke who went there after her death was told that no silks could be taken into England without heavy duty and it would not pay to bother with underwear, hosiery, shoes, &c., so by the time all these things were eliminated there was not much left. Gerald said Miss Polsen saw to the giving of these things away to the maids, &c. at the hotel, where they staid. I cannot help but surmise that some of these things were appropriated by herself. There is not a single piece of good lace and I know Katie had many lovely bits and collar and cuff sets. She asked if she might keep Katie's watch, as they were like sisters and Gerald acquiesced, until it should be called for. Miss P is spending the summer on the continent and wrote, suggesting that she would be glad to meet us in France or Italy. Also we have learned that Katie lost quite a little money thro a relative to Miss P's and Mr H thinks she was a paid companion - at least Katie's checks show that she bore all their expenses. Of course we cannot do anything, altho it is very annoying. If we find none of the laces in the trunks a Bournmouth, I think I shall write Miss P, inquiring about them.
Nearly all the best silver is gone? There are none of the old teapots, silver dishes, sugars, creamer, &c., we remember Auntie had and Mr H thinks Katie must have sold them to raise money to cover losses, thro this same nephew of Miss P's. We are going to Bournmouth next wk - then we will run up against the big problem of deciding what is to be done with the stuff there. It will be a pity to sell beautiful furniture for a song, at auction, but we will probably have to do that very thing, as it will cost too much to ship and pay duty.
This cottage is like we see in the Movies 0 six miles from Leicester in new residential village - built 22 yrs ago, and the grounds but 4 or 5 acres, I judge, about an acre in the house garden. Of course it is completely surrounded by a high hedge and the house set so far back that it is completely hidden from view. There are 5 servants, 3 maids and 2 men, a beautiful car, cared entirely by the chauffer. All of these servants formerly employed by the Duke of Lancaster, whose House is a few miles away, but his wife died, his only son killed in the war and he married an actress. Between everything, he got in such a bad way he has had to give up much of his hunting grounds and curtail expenses generally so that these servants were glad to seek new places, where they could be well paid and have good food. These stories, Mary you have doubtless heard on every hand and Laura and Kirk will be bored to death with all we want to talk about when we come.
We are having a most delightful time here, the Holyokes children are all married and Mr and Mrs H I think really lead a rather lonely life in this big place all by themselves. Mr H has his son in partnership in business in Leicester (Solicitors - what we term lawyers) but they have a very large business, many big estates to handle and settle, so altho Mr H is 70 yrs old he spends every day at the office and then wants to sit quietly at home thru the evening. Mrs H loves to go about and ave company and seems to really enjoy having us here and taking us on beautiful drives each afternoon. Sunday we all went to the Dukeries, of which you all know. The circle drive was something over 100 miles. Tues we had another scenic drive of about 75 miles, and Wed an all day drive of 180 miles to Oxford and Rugby and a few other points of interest. But it rained so hard while we were at Oxford, we only saw about half what we had planned. Old folks can't run around in the wet and rain as young folks can. We saw many tourist parties who slopped around in spite of it all. Yesterday we went "Shopping" in Leicester. Mrs H was very anxious to purchase a pr of shoes like those black ones I wore last summer and inquired inssitantly for an American "boot shop" or a place where she might get an American shoe, but in vain. Then we went to the Market, where I used to go with Katie, and to a most wonderful "pastry & Sweet shop" also familiar, where a man in Uniform, decorated with many service medals, stood at the door and said "Goodmorning, Madam and Good day Madam" and carried our pkgs to the car. How David and Gregg would have enjoyed that. Mary Lewis would have enjoyed the market with all the beautiful flowers, and vegetables and fish and meat and all kinds of people and Woolworths across the str a "threepence" and "sixpence" store. There are so many times I wish for Mary Lewis - she would get such a thrill over so many things, we would enjoy them that much more.
It is raining again - or should I say still. and Mrs H is having a tennis party this afternoon inviting some old friends and some of the newer ones, for us to meet. She says that of course all do not play tennis - especially the older people, who sit in the garden and visit and watch the game. She is very much disappointed it looked quite bright early the A M and she had such pretty garden table, chairs, &c. She is a very ambitious energetic woman, in spite of her 69 yrs and works as hard running this big establishment as we do running our small ones.
The Fuller Brush man was here this A M and I was interested in his sales talk. Mrs H bot some but says it is difficult to get the maids to use new things she bot an entire vaccuum cleaning set but can't get them to use it except when there is a grand turning out, and she directs them.
How you would all enjoy the white capped and aproned maid who brings in our tea to our bedside in the A M, slipping in so quietly she does not even waken us. You see what sound sleepers we have become with all this driving and sight seeing, and the maid who stands at attention as we come and go and the liveried chaffuer, so attentive and polite and the gardener, who "fears it will rain ma'am, it feels a bit like, what a pity" their accent is so delicious. David would enjoy these boys from various schools in various uniforms and would be glad he lived in a country where he doesn't have to wear such absurd things. Gregg would have enjoyed the boats at Oxford - there is a small stream there by the colleges where the students train in all kinds of boats for the races which are held on the Tames out of London, with Cambridge and the other famous schools. The boys, too would have enjoyed famous Rugby, and also be glad they didn't have to live in one of those big stone houses with a Master constantly in attendance.
We have found the trip to Paris so inexpensive that we are hoping to be able to go and of course will then visit the Battle fields, but are afraid we will have to omit the trip to the South of England.
We became acquainted with and interesting Englishman on the ship, connected with an Oil Co of Venzuella, S A. In the course of visiting Louis told of the Armco plant at Middletown. This man immediately said "We use Armco in our work in Va."
This has to be a family letter, am sending it first to Butler, Laura please send on then Mary, Mary to Hazel, Hazel to Alvah. This is the first time I have had to write, what with sightseeing and visiting. The Gong has sounded for lunch so I must stop with love to all of you, in which Louis joins. Leila.
I made a copy of Leila's letter, fearing you might have left N Y and would not get the original. Kirk suggested I make carbons for Alvah and Hazel, which I will send them direct, so you need not send this on to anyone but keep for yourself. I do not know your summer plans, we would like to have you if we thot you would be contented. However, K's Mother comes in a wk to stay until Aug. 1st. I hardly understand why she likes it so much here. Love. Laura.